Resources >

Report: The Corbyn moment and European socialism

A fresh look at the critical role that a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government could play in transforming Europe's politics

Our new report – The Corbyn moment and European socialism – takes a fresh look at the critical role that a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government could play in transforming Europe’s politics, working from within the EU. You can read it in full here, and order paper copies by emailing

Transnational institutions such as the EU are essential to pushing forward radical and progressive change, and only if the UK remains in the EU can Corbyn have the necessary influence to achieve these aims.  The report identifies a number of key areas where a Labour government could use the EU to implement its radical programme. These include:

  • Taxing multinationals, including harmonising corporation tax rules and clamping down on tax avoidance.
  • Regulating banks, including with a new financial transaction tax
  • Protecting migrant workers’ rights and strengthening trade unions
  • Digital Rights, where Labour has already played a leading role in the global debate
  • Climate change, using its weight shift EU institutions and overcome big business lobbies
  • Addressing global conflicts, prioritising the security of people, rather than the interests of states, on a humanitarian basis
  • Ending fortress Europe, by radically altering the discourse, opening up legal routes for entry, and treating the refugee crisis as a humanitarian issue, not a security one
  • Reforming the Eurozone, by playing a supportive role and example for progressive anti-austerity parties inside it

From the authors:

Mary Kaldor is Professor of Global Governance at the London School of Economics:
“The European Union is one of the very few institutions capable of tackling global challenges like poverty and inequality, climate change, or war. But this will only occur if a pan-European progressive alliance of parties and social movements can be built. Many of those who voted for Brexit felt left behind by globalisation. Paradoxically their problems can only be addressed through radical change in the EU; a Corbyn government inside the EU could make that happen. Instead of arguing about the bad consequences of Brexit, let’s imagine the extraordinary possibilities of a progressive EU inspired by a Corbyn government.”

Luke Cooper is a Senior Lecturer in International Politics at Anglia Ruskin University:
“Corbyn has already transformed the political landscape in Britain. But he won’t be able to implement Labour’s hugely popular 2017 manifesto without working for political change across Europe and globally. From tackling tax avoidance to responding to the climate crisis and transforming the globalised economy, international cooperation is critical. Part of this must be a radical perspective for a reformed European Union.”

John Palmer is a former European Editor of the Guardian newspaper and Political Director of the European Policy Centre
“Europhobic hard right politicians in the Tory party have exploited the undoubted failures of both the British and the EU economic and political establishment, and also widespread public ignorance of the way the EU actually works, to systematically poison attitudes to the European Union. The left has played a vital part over the years in helping to create a more enlightened, democratic Europe which is valued today by so many of the younger generation throughout the EU. We must not allow a new wave of populist bigotry and prejudice drag us back to a Europe of mutual suspicion and hostility – something which led to so much bloodshed in our continent over the past century.”

Niccolo Milanese is Director of European Alternatives:
“The EU is at a crossroads, and the Labour party as Europe’s largest socialist party could have a decisive role in moving the whole continent towards progress, greater democracy and equality. Labour’s sister parties are in crisis and in need of renewal, and many of their members along with civic movements across Europe look to Corbyn to provide leadership. It is a once in a generation opportunity to affect change internationally, and a fearless engagement with Europe from the Labour party could achieve it.”

Introduction to The Corbyn moment and European socialism

Until now the arguments against Brexit have been largely ‘negative’. They focus on how bad Brexit would be for Britain. We believe there is a quite different argument to make about how good a Labour government inside the European Union (EU) could be for Europe and by extension for addressing the problems of globalisation.

The referendum result, at least for voters in some Labour heartlands, represented a rejection of the establishment. The problem with some Remainers is that they often seem to be demanding a return to the pre-referendum status quo. If Labour wants to change the status quo for the better (and not for the worse as it will do with Brexit) then the key is tackling the problems of inequality and deprivation, which are inexorably linked to free market globalisation.

In his speeches, Jeremy Corbyn has rightly emphasised the need to tax multinational companies, to control the volatility of financial markets, address climate change and end global conflicts. At the very least these measures would require extremely close cooperation between a Labour government in Britain and the European Union to implement them. But this would, in turn, require a high level of agreement amongst the EU-27, which is unlikely to be forthcoming given the (rightly) bold nature of some of these proposals. A Labour government would need to directly lead a fight for these proposals across Europe. Ultimately this means building a mass movement for these goals, working with other parties and social movements to forge a new political consensus.

The reception Corbyn received when he addressed the socialist group in the European Parliament underlines the possibilities for radical change in Europe. With Labour’s sister parties in crisis and crying out for new ideas and direction, a Corbyn government is in a unique position – indeed it may be a once in a lifetime position – to catalyse transformative change across Europe. The European Union is in a state of flux, in which its policies towards free trade, globalisation, peace building and the environment are all being redefined. Progressive outcomes for the whole of Europe would receive a huge boost from Labour leadership.

If the Labour party allows a damaging Tory Brexit to take place, it will lose its chance to play this transformative role for Europe and for the UK. Instead of being able to concentrate on leading reform domestically and internationally, a post-Brexit Labour government would have to use all its energy to fend off predatory action by larger economic blocs or financial markets, and unpicking trade deals with the likes of Trump that the Conservative party will have left as a poisonous legacy.

The stakes really are this high.

Read the report in full here.

For a paper copy, please email

8th March 2018